Mike Columbus Launches ‘Mike’s Rides for Lives’ Annual Car Giveaway Charity in Bremerton, WA

Mike Columbus's Blog | Mike Columbus Launches ‘Mike’s Rides for Lives’ Annual Car Giveaway Charity

When the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that the first case of the novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in the United States was found in Washington State, less than 100 miles from my home, I must admit that I felt unsure about the future.

Shortly thereafter, Governor Jay Inslee issued a statewide stay-at-home order that required every Washingtonian to stay home unless they needed to pursue an essential activity. This included a ban on all gatherings for social, spiritual, and recreational purposes, and the closure of all businesses except “essential” businesses.

Car dealerships were not deemed essential, and my dealership had to close its doors. However, there were still people that had an essential need to acquire a vehicle and I was granted an “essential worker” status to help.  It was during this time that the idea for a car giveaway charity became something I envisioned to help people that had an essential need but no financial means to acquire a vehicle.

The Backstory

During the shutdown I met a firefighter that needed a vehicle to get to work so that they could continue to combat fires.  We kept our distance and completed the paperwork at the firehouse parking lot on the back of the vehicle she purchased.  There were others that also had special needs, March I was able to help 13 people and another 15 in April.

Through the rest of the year, I met others that had essential needs for a vehicle. Each of these people left an indelible mark in my life that cannot be erased. 

To my surprise, 2020 finished with me having my best year ever in the car business and with that I decided to give back to the community that enabled me to have this success.

Essential Need for a Vehicle

In Kitsap, and surrounding counties in Washington State, there are many people that cannot afford the cost of transportation and need to receive medical treatment.   Due to our location in the Puget Sound and the need to travel to Seattle for treatments, primarily by ferry, these patients find themselves in a dire financial crisis, forced to choose between paying their rent or receiving treatment. 

Some need more than just transportation costs covered. There are people that need a permanent solution to get to their medical treatment or to their place of work but do not have the funds or means to purchase a vehicle.

I discovered that there are also people that need a vehicle to get out of an abusive home situation.  Additionally, a family head may need a vehicle to get back and forth to put food on the table.  These are the people in our community that we seek to gift a vehicle to.

Mike’s Rides for Lives - Car Giveaway Charity

To help in these circumstances, I created Mike’s Rides for Lives, a nonprofit charitable 501 (c)(3).  Its mission is to provide a vehicle at no cost each year to an individual that has a dire need as described above.

Beginning December 1, 2020, I am personally contributing $30 for every vehicle sale I make throughout the year into a designated account with the autoplex.  After one year, the accounting office will provide me with the funds accumulated for the charity. This essentially means that everyone that buys a vehicle from me is a contributor.

Everyone who buys a vehicle from me is a contributor!

With a target of 250 sales, and donations from other generous contributors, we should be able to furnish someone with a reliable vehicle.  My hope is that Mike’s Rides for Lives becomes an annual event that provides these disadvantaged people with reliable transportation.

Gratitude and Thanks

It is with gratitude that I take this opportunity to thank those that helped me launch this endeavor. David Gandel and Jeremy Clark, my managers at the Honda store for helping me get the concept refined.  West Hills Autoplex owner Rick Wiler and Rob Colon for approving the proposal and allowing it to move forward with Haselwood Auto Group.  Not to mention the customers that continue to trust me with the selection and purchase of a vehicle which makes all this possible.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not recognize the community leaders that have given their input into this idea and agreed to continue to support this initiative as Board Members. These leaders are:

  • Gary Zambor, Assistant Vice President and Branch Manager of 1st Security Bank - Poulsbo, Vice President of the Poulsbo Chamber of Commerce, Naval Undersea Museum Board of Director, and Freemason.

Gary has been instrumental in filing all the necessary paperwork to legally establish Mike’s Rides for lives and serves as the Vice President.

  • Julie Cooper, Licensed Sales Manager Fairway Mortgage. 37-year career in mortgage, President Kitsap Friends of Children's Hospital Guild, mom, and grandma.

Julie has a generous heart and understands fully the vision of Mike’s Rides for Lives. She also serves as Vice President and will help assure the vision continues throughout the years.

  • Barbara Carr, retired trauma, and oncology nurse. President of the Kathleen Sutton Fund, and on the Board of Trustees for Make-A-Wish Alaska & Washington.

Barbara brings a wealth of nonprofit experience and expertise. As president of the Kathleen Sutton Fund, she is well versed in the needs of those that require assistance with transportation for health care. Barbara serves the Mike’s Rides for Lives board as Secretary.

  • Susan Fezer, CPA for 25 years, with a heart for nonprofits and experienced with IRS filings for them. 

Susan will assure that Mike’s Rides for Lives is compliant and maintains financial responsibility especially towards its contributors. Susan serves as Mike’s Rides for Lives as Treasurer.

  • Micki Peak, Executive Director for Business Network International (BNI), Pacific Northwest (PNW). A BNI member and director for 18 years.  Secretary of the Silverdale Chamber of Commerce since 2016.

Micki is a master networker and connector in the PNW. She will maintain the ethical standards Mike’s Rides for Lives mandates and is overseeing the Selection Committee.

  • Suzanne Theros, Licensed supplemental insurance representative with AFLAC.

With years of experience of helping the community in time of need and crisis, Suzanne is a Volunteer for the board and will be assisting Micki Peak on the Selection Committee.

On May 24, 2021, the Board members met to approve the corporate bylaws. At this meeting, I, Mike Columbus was appointed President of Mike’s Rides for Lives.

On June 23, 2021, Mike’s Rides for Lives, became a fully recognized Washington State nonprofit corporation.

This Board is charged with one mission, which is to assure that Mike’s Rides for Lives remains ethical and beyond reproach in all its dealings with contributors and recipients of the car giveaway.

In conclusion Mike’s Rides for Lives is a wonderful opportunity for the AutoPlex to further demonstrate our care for those in our community and will enable me to give back in a way I never thought possible.

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